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Warner Home Video presents

Gothika HD-DVD (2003)

“You can’t trust someone who thinks you’re crazy.”- Chloe Sava (Penelope Cruz)

Stars: Halle Berry
Other Stars: Penelope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton, Robert Downey Jr.
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, brief language and nudity)
Run Time: 01h:38m:20s
Release Date: 2007-09-25
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-A- B+


DVD Review

Dark Castle, a horror arm of Warner, hasn’t exactly churned out high quality films during its rather brief existence. Instead, they’re responsible for junk like Thir13en Ghosts and Ghost Ship; movies that feature B-list actors working with a C-list director on a Z-list screenplay. 2003 saw Dark Castle release Gothika in theaters, but this time they were armed with one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, a pre-Catwoman Halle Berry. Unfortunately, Berry’s presence wasn’t enough to make this a huge box office success, although it did manage to make back a bit more than its $40 million budget. Warner Home Video still thinks highly enough of the film to give it the royal treatment on this new, HD DVD release.

Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) spends her days working at a mental hospital listening to her share of crazy people. One such patient, Chloe Sava (Penelope Cruz) is incarcerated for murdering her stepfather, and repeatedly claims to be sexually violated by the Devil himself. One night, on her way home, Miranda is forced to take a detour and nearly runs over a young woman standing in the middle of the road. When she touches this woman, Miranda blacks out and wakes up to discover herself as a prisoner at the very mental institution that she works at. She also learns that she is the prime suspect in the murder of her husband, Douglas (Charles S. Dutton), who is also the head of her department. The only person she can confide in is colleague Dr. Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.), but her only hope for freedom is to get to the bottom of this supernatural murder mystery.

For what it’s worth, this is easily the best of the Dark Castle canon of opuses. There’s actually quite a bit that works here, but, when all is said and done, the film sinks under the weight of a pedestrian screenplay. Still, director Mathieu Kassovitz (the man behind the critically acclaimed La Haine) creates a very dark, creepy atmosphere that carries with it an unrelenting sense of dread. The problem is that there are so many holes in the plot, that it’s difficult for any director to work around them and produce a consistently engrossing film.

This was the first of the many awful scripts Halle Berry has chosen since her Oscar winning turn in Monster’s Ball. Still, the acting isn’t a problem here at all, in fact, everyone does an exceptional job with what little they’re given to work with. Berry stays believable, despite carrying a scared look on her face for most of the picture, and thankfully avoids going over-the-top, which, in genre films, is easy to do. Robert Downey Jr. is in top form (what else is new?) in an often hapless role, that he elevates to another level. Cruz is the real standout, though, as she steals nearly every scene she’s in, playing “nuts” quite well and avoiding all of the possible clichés in the process.

The big twist during the final act is something of a mixed bag. For one, the nature of the twist isn’t as predictable as it could have been. Still, once we witness the “big reveal,” the final few minutes are a major letdown, as the film descends into typical, slasher film territory. It’s just a shame that, like the ending, anytime some scary momentum is built up, the poorly-written script rears its ugly head and drags the film back down again. If only those had been the type of scares the filmmakers had in mind.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, this HD presentation looks incredible. Image detail is exquisite, without even the slightest bit of softness to bog things down, and blacks are deep and strong. Only a few instances of grain can be reported, and print flaws, on the whole, are virtually nonexistent.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is Dolby Digital + 5.1, and this impressive track benefits from a great deal of surround usage. Much of the film relies on the creation of a dreary atmosphere, and this mix helps that aspect along quite nicely, thanks to fully-realized, realistic ambient sounds. There’s also some heavy bass during some of the jump-inducing scenes, and dialogue is always crisp and easy to understand.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Mathieu Kassovitz and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique.
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Dr. Parsons Patient Profiles
  2. Patient Artwork and Personal Narration
  3. Woodward Penitentiary Interview Archives
  4. MTV “Punk’d” featuring Halle Berry
  5. Music Video – “Behind Blue Eyes” by Limp Bizkit
Extras Review: A wealth of extras begins with an audio commentary track by Director Mathieu Kassovitz and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique. This pair discusses a ton of technical details about various aspects of the film’s shoot, but this is a rather lifeless track on the whole.

Next, we get On the Set of Gothika, a 16-minute “making of” segment that mixes cast and crew interviews with on-set footage, and is a typical EPK fluff piece. Painting with Fire is a seven-minute piece that focuses on the visual effects via more cast and crew interviews.

We also get a look at three of Dr. Parsons Patient Profiles, which is four minutes of various notes on patients Candace Burns, Jeanne Howard, and Wanda Clinton. Patient Artwork and Personal Narration covers about a minute and a half of those aspects of the same three patients and Woodward Penitentiary Interview Archives features almost eight minutes of actual interview footage of their sessions with Dr. Parsons. None of these patients are related to any of the characters in the films, but these extras still make a spooky addition to this disc.

There’s also a music video for “Behind Blue Eyes” by Limp Bizkit, as well as a 19-minute making-of piece for that clip. Along with the theatrical trailer for Gothika there’s a very funny, four-minute piece from the TV show MTV “Punk’d” during which Halle Berry is tricked into believing that she can’t get into the premiere of the film.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

After a couple of DVD releases through the years, the Halle Berry vehicle Gothika gets its turn on HD DVD. Despite the inconsistencies of the film itself, there’s no question that it looks and sounds fantastic in HD, with all of the extras from the 2-Disc DVD edition making the trip to this new release.

Chuck Aliaga 2008-01-11